With approximately 25 million members, 750 million books and 29 million reviews, the numbers look definitely impressive for GoodReads. Launched in 2007, GoodReads is at the moment, the most popular online platform for book recommendations and reviews. However, not all benefits are for everyone. The members have access to a lot more information. Apart from the opportunity to read the community reviews –a feature that the visitors have also access to – the website offers personalized book recommendations based on each member’s “bookshelves” which include the books that the member has or is planning to read.
Nonetheless, you cannot but wonder how did GoodReads accomplish such a growth within 7 years? It can be argued that one of the main reasons why GoodReads managed to survive is because some individuals return repeatedly and invest energy in the ongoing conversation (Bateman, Gray and Butler 2011, Bagozzi and Dholakia 2002, Lee and Cole 2003). For each book genre, you can identify consistent reviewers who, most of the time, are also popular bloggers. The platform assists the interaction within the members and tries to help achieve the perfect fit as you are not only allowed to “add as a friend” and follow the reviews of a fellow member but also have access to the member’s bookshelves. In addition, the authors -the contemporary ones, as it would be at least weird if James Joyce was participating in discussions and replied to comments – can connect with the readers.
The facilitation of the Word of Mouth (WOM) communication is the platform’s strongest attribute as the WOM volume plays an informative role by increasing the degree of consumer awareness and the number of informed consumers in the market (Chen, Wang, and Xie 2011, Liu 2006). This far, everything seems simple and with good intentions. What happens though, when you have authors who start complaining about unfair and targeted reviews? The term “bullying” has been also used to describe this extreme effect. Negative reviews and especially targeted negative reviews are always a concern for the authors and publishers. This concern is also supported by research which indicates that negative WOM information has a greater impact on product sales than positive WOM information (Chen, Wang, and Xie, 2011). Further, when the credibility of the review is also taken into account, it is expected that a negative/one star review would be considered more reliable because there is always the concern that the author, or another interested party, may “hype” his or her own book by publishing glowing reviews (Chevalier and Mayzlin, 2006).
It is true that maybe the authors are exaggerating about the extent and the severity of the bullying that takes place among the reviewers. On the other hand, it is not unheard that due to the popularity effect the user/reviewer behavior is affected. For instance, reviewers who are on the site longer but do not observe their readership growing are likely to be increasingly critical (Goes, Lin, and Yeung, 2014). Moreover, authors and publishers are not the only ones who are concerned about the bullying effect. Book readers and members of the GoodReads, in their search for honest reviews, encounter the same problem. As they are people who love books they have decided to take action. Due to the bullying effect the website Stop The GR Bullies (http://www.stopthegrbullies.com/), created by readers, bloggers and GoodReads members, made its appearance.
Even though it is an initiative that has found many supporters, clearly it is not a solution to the problem. Raising awareness among the readers though, it is a good starting point to help them distinguish and question the honesty of a review.
- Bagozzi, R. P., U. M. Dholakia. (2002). Intentional social action in virtual communities. Journal of Interactive Marketing 16(2) 2–21.
- Bateman, P. J., Gray, P. H., Butler, B. S., (2011). The Impact of Community Commitment on Participation in Online Communities, Information Systems Research, 22, 4, pp. 841–854
- Chen, Y., Wang, Q., and Jxie, J., (2011). Online Social Interactions: A Natural Experiment on Word of Mouth Versus Observational Learning, Journal of Marketing Research, 238 –254
- Chevalier, J., A., and Mayzlin, D., (2006). The Effect of Word of Mouth on Sales: Online Book Reviews, Journal of Marketing Research, 43, 3, pp. 345-354
- Goes, P., B., Lin, M., Au Yeung , C., (2014) “Popularity Effect” in User-Generated Content: Evidence from Online Product Reviews, Information Systems Research, pp. 1-17
- Lee, G. K., R. E. Cole, (2003). From a firm-based to a communitybased model of knowledge creation: The case of the Linux kernel development. Organ. Sci.: Journal Inst. Management Sci. 14(6) 633–649
- Liu, Yong, (2006), “Word of Mouth for Movies: Its Dynamics and Impact on Box Office Revenue,” Journal of Marketing, 70 (July), 74–89
- GoodReads, http://www.goodreads.com